Mission Sermons, etc., of Father Ignatius, O. S. B.

1888 15 (London: William Ridgway, 169, Piccadilly, 1886.)

It seems a duty to souls, not to say to the Lord and truth, to give a simple account of this incongruous book. For souls in the Establishment, strongly prejudiced as they are by the antipathies of party feeling, this is difficult.

Our older readers might conceive that the adopted name of Father Ignatius designates the Hon. and Rev. G. Spencer, a Popish pervert, so well known some fifty or more years ago. The present claimant is the Rev. Joseph Leycester Lyne, a comparatively recent Anglican deacon, who poses as a "monk," and preaches where he can, as an "evangelist," without licence from the English Establishment to which he tenaciously adheres.

From Mr. J. N. Smedley's Introduction to this volume of discourses which he edits, we learn that Mr. Lyne in 1860 "received his call from God to become a monk," being "an out-and-out ritualist." Yet we are told in the next page (vii.) that only in 1866 did he become "a converted man," "born again" as he and all intelligent believers would express it.

Now we hail with thankfulness the testimony to Mr. L.'s conversion in 1866; but what are we to think of his sobriety in adhering, even now, to the astounding assumption (not to say, presumption) of receiving a "call from God to become a monk," and this six years previously, while still a child of wrath even as others? "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." How absurd then and even profane, for one who owns the unspeakably blessed change of being born anew, to pretend to a call from God! six years before to become a monk! That the enemy deluded an unrenewed man, steeped in ritualism, is not surprising. That he should not now discern and judge the snare ill becomes one born of God. It is His dishonour much more than Mr. Lyne's.

But now a few words as to monachism may be seasonable. In letter and in spirit it is wholly unknown to both the Old Testament and the New; yet it was an old system when our Lord brought in grace and truth. Neither law nor gospel was its parent, but Oriental heathenism, Brahmanic and Buddhist; whence it crept among the Essenes of Palestine and the Therapeutae of Egypt, the immediate progenitors of Paul of Thebes and Anthony among professing Christians, before simple anchorites merged into the cloister-system, to koinobion, of Pachomius. At first they were all laymen, and many were fathers of families. Indeed it was not till 1311 that the obligation to take orders became law under Pope Clement V. Nor was any vow imposed at first. It was not uncommon for some time to return to ordinary life. Rome, ever alive to adopt any and every element conducive to ecclesiastical dominion, made the status indelible for all who took the vow. Its source was not revelation but that spurious philosophy which saw nothing but evil, as well in the human body, as in matter generally. Devotedness in grace, as taught by our Lord and the apostle, is a wholly different thing.

Yet this heathenish importation into debased Christendom is one of the chief objects for which Father Ignatius lives and labours, on the plea of a divine call which left him unconverted for six years after. Nay, he now goes farther astray. As he never humbled himself before God for that which he first in unbelief ascribed to Him, he has been allowed to fall into the still more heinous sin of affirming divine "apparitions of late" at his Monastery in Llanthony! There was in Aug. 1880 a vision of the monstrance, or silver vessel containing the host, while it was actually locked up within a massive iron door! The choir-boys in the evening, who knew nothing of this, saw the Virgin Mary! Again, on 4th Sept. following, they saw the bush illuminated once more; and when an "Ave Maria" was sung, instantly the figure flashed in a cloud of light (p. 414), and even "a second figure as of a Man, with only a cloth round his loins," appeared in the light, stretching out his hands. "The senior boy saw the figure on eight separate occasions" (p. 415). On the 15th Sept. Mr. Lyne, with the boys and some five adults, watched and suggested to sing three "Hail Marys," in honour of each person of the Trinity. Flashings of light were seen; when he said, "Let us sing a 'Hail Mary,' in honour of the blessed Virgin herself." This was indeed effectual, he lets us know. "Directly we began to do so, I saw a great circle of light flash out over the whole heavens, taking in the mountains, the trees, the ruined house, the enclosure, the monastery, the gates, and everything; the light flashed upon our feet, upon the steps, and upon the buildings; and from that one great circle of light, small circles bulged out, and in the centre of the circles stood a gigantic figure of a human being, with hands uplifted, standing sideways. In the distance this gigantic figure appeared to be about sixty feet in height; but as it descended, it took the ordinary size of a human being. At the moment it struck me that a dark appearance over the head of the figure was hair, not a veil; but I am convinced, from comparing notes with others, and also from other reasons, that it was a veil which I saw over the face. I saw distinctly the outlines of the features against the bright light, and also the exact form of the drapery from the sleeves of the upraised arms, as clearly and as plainly as it is possible for me to express. It was all stamped with a most marvellous kind of reality upon my mind. But marvellous and glorious as the vision had been, staggered and astonished as I (who am naturally so impulsive, excitable and demonstrative) was at the time, I happily determined to say nothing of what I had seen to those about me; but to ascertain what they had seen, in order that I might receive confirmation from them. So after the vision had passed, I turned to the brother on my left and said, 'Did you see anything?' 'Yes, indeed I did, Reverend Father,' he replied. 'Now tell me,' I said, 'exactly what you saw?' He told me precisely what he had seen, and his testimony was precisely confirmatory of what I myself had witnessed. The brother in front of me also declared that he saw exactly what the other had described. A few minutes afterwards Sister Janet [who testified to the vision of the past also, p. 409] came in through the meadow, and walking up towards the gate, lifted up her hands, as if she wished to attract our notice and to speak. I went to her and said, 'What is the matter?' 'Oh! Reverend Father,' she replied, 'I have seen the most glorious vision of any yet.' I told her to be quiet, and to tell me exactly what she had seen. She described precisely, without a word being said by us, what she had witnessed; and it was exactly what had been seen by us. From that time no further visions appeared" (pp. 416-418).

Some of our readers may wonder that such words should be printed in these columns. But it may be wholesome to learn how persons confessing Christ's name can be deceived. It is not for us to account for what was seen: whether by an imposture practised by anyone; or by the deceiving power of Satan. That manifestations, not of man but from beneath, have been, even in our day, cannot be doubted by any candid reader of Mr. R. Baxter's Narrative of Facts as to the Irvingite delusion. Not improbably there may have been a kindred snare laid for this monastic company, not only in the visions, but in the healing virtues of the leaf "which stood up dark against the dazzling garments of the Apparition, as it appeared in the bush" (pp. 420-425). Father Ignatius regards these phenomena as a sanction from on high to the Restoration of the Reserved Sacrament, and the Cultus (as he veils the worship) of the Mother of our Lord, and so to his own Monastic revival in the Church of England. Those who know that these are essential points of apostate Christendom will not forget the solemn warning "for the last time," that "no lie is of the truth," and that signs confirmatory against the written word are not of God.

Yet Father Ignatius throughout eleven Mission Sermons sets forth Christ as the accessible and immediate Saviour to all that believe. There may be egotism and a dangerous trifling with ritualistic trumpery; but his preaching ordinarily savours strongly of a style common enough among so-called Plymouth Brethren and their followers. He is without any full grasp of redemption; he does not understand the righteousness of God; but there is just such an echo of the gospel preached by the minor canons among Brethren as to convey the impression that Mr. Lyne is as decidedly characterised by their , evangelising as by Romanising in the rest of his religious life. Not only in logic but in faith the two things stand irreconcilably opposed. May he therefore have grace to consider his thoughts and ways, rejecting the evil and cleaving to the good! It is as perilous for his own soul as for his hearers, that he should go on for years blind to the present inconsistency. The gospel of God is intolerant of ritualism, still more of idolatry; and he who preaches Christ ever so feebly ought not to defame the Reformers or excuse their enemies as in his Orr. xvii., xviii., xix.